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Chapter 2

Soc 101 -Chapter 2 notes

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Bishop's University
SOC 101
Barry Mc Clinchey

Chapter 2 Classical Social Theories “Seeing” the world Theoretically -different lenses to view the world - Theory is a statement that tries to explain how facts or events are related. - Develops skills that are necessary to see the world from alternative perspectives - Each theory has both strengths and weaknesses - Each theorist offers unique insights into our social world - Epistemology, “ways of knowing” Classical Sociological Theory (1600-1750) - Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) o People are responsible for creating their social worlds, society could be changed through conscious reflection o Natural State: How humans existed prior to the emergence of social structures.. “life is nasty, brutish, and short” o Naturally rational..so they would be willing to enter a collective agreement o Collective has the right to revolt against the Leviathan should it fail to fulfill its obligations o People are motivated by self-interest and the pursuit of power – driven by fear of death and desire for power o Individuals are the basic building blocks of society o Society was the result of human agency John Locke (1632-1794) - God was responsible for the emergence of society and government - All knowledge is the result of experience - Tabula rasa: people are born as blank slates- society evolves you as a human being o Right to self-preservation and to private property o Advocacy for Individual autonomy and freedom (foundation for democracy and US constitution) o People fearful in their natural state and needed the government to protect them - Defined the democratic principles - Government has no rights..only obligations to society - Formal separation b/w church and state b/c w/e was deemed lawful for the collective was beyond the purview of the church - Committed to ideals of democratic leadership and rights of the masses Charles Montesquieu (1689-1755) - First clear example of the sociological perspective..forced himself and readers to see the strange in the familiar - Instead of humans creating society, he proposed that humans were defined and created by society - Laws define the spirit of the people - Ideal types: classic or pure forms of a given social phenomenon (ex: to some the US is an ideal type of capitalism) - - Caterogized 3 different types of government 1. Republic-2 forms: democracy and aristocracy. Virtue 2. Monarchy: honour 3. Despotism: fear - Variation in the form of government did not happen by chance, and it provided the social scientist w/ a unique and rich view into the values of the people - Society is what it wants to become - Appreciation for cultural diversity and comparative methodology Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) - Main contribution was the social contract and his belief in the autonomy of the individual - The Social Contract builds on his belief that the natural state was a primitive condition before laws or morality - Did not believe natural state was awful existence but instead symbiotic and idyllic relationship based on equality - Must understand human condition so we could build a society that most closely resembled our natural tendencies and desires - Social arrangements inconsistent w/ natural desiressocial problems (crime, suicide) - Rise of gov = manifestation of social contract - People can both aspire to their individual pursuits and be protected from others on the basic of social defined rules - Government is a corrupting element that will try to undermine autonomy of individual - Demonstration of enlightenment thinking The Enlightenment (1650-1799) - Before enlightenment peoples thinking was directed at God, the Church and the aristocracy. - Challenged years of Christian teachings - Philosophers advocated critical thinking and practical knowledge and built on the natural sciences - Promoted human agency a clear continuation of the writings of Hobbes, Locke, Motesquieu, and Rousseau - Reordering of how people saw the world and their role in it - Revolutionsentire societies were completely reorganized according to the secular ideals of social equality and liberty - Sociology was born not from revolutionary ideas of Enlightenment thinking but rather from the conservative reaction against them The Birth of Sociology - Conservatives believed that society is not the product of individuals, rather an entity in itself. - Conservatives challenged basis of Enlightenment thinking 1. Society exists on its own 2. Society produces the individual 3. Individuals simply fill positions 4. Smallest unit of social analysis is the family 5. Parts of the society are interrelated and interdependent 6. Change is a threat 7. Social institutions are beneficial 8. Modern social changes create fear and anxiety 9. Emphasis on seemingly irrational factors 10. Return to social hierarchies and healthy competition 2. Functionalism - They argue the institutions that we created, they work the way we designed them too. They all work together to make society work so that we live in a society that makes sense. - Society the way we imagine the way it does - Social world is a dynamic system of interrelated and interdependent parts o Social structures exist to help people fulfill their wants and desires o Human society is similar to an organism, when it fails to work together the “system” will fail o Society must meet the needs of the majority o Dominant theoretical paradigm between the late 1920s and the early 1960s - Identify the problem and then fix that institution/problem - They view the human society as the organic analogy (the belief that society is like an organism with interdependent and interrelated parts) - Structural functionalism: two part system of structures and their associated functions - Natural state of equilibrium-> stable and homeostatic - Pareto argued (similar to Comte: individuals w/in a system were like molecules that interacted b/c of their common interests, values, drives and sentiments. Described fully how social system were achieved from the interrelations and mutual dependencies of all their constituent parts..his ideas adopted by American functionalist Talcott Parsons - Ex: problem with our educational system. Functionalism will get together as a group and face this problem. They looked at different way to tackle this problem such as taking away the driver license if teens flunked out of high school or making it illegal witch would bring justice issues. - We need poor people (functionalism) Functionalist Theorists - Herbert Spencer o Survival of the fittest justifies why only the strong should survive (the people who work hard will succeed) o Coined term survival of the fittest before Charles Darwin o Societies evolve because they need to change in order to survive o Environmental pressures allow beneficial traits to be passed on to future generations o Social Darwinism draws upon Darwin’s idea of natural selection (evolution); asserts societies evolve according to the same principles as biological organisms (beneficial traits get passed on to future generations). Functionalist approach: societies evolve b/c there is a reason for the changes (i.e. need to survive) Laissez-faire approach (opposes regulation of or interference with natural processes). Spencer believed there should not be programs to help those in need b/c it “increases the population of idlers and criminals..best for them to die”. inconsistent w/ the sociological imagination -his ideas provided justification for colonial expansion by rich and powerful countries -equates evolution w/ progress and assumes that over time human society will inevitably improve ******* Emile Durkheim ***** IMPORTANT - First professor of education in the world, he taught to the first future teachers of France. Some of his lessons would be about should we hit kids so we get them to do what we want them to do, sex education….what should we teach to kids/teens. - Founder of modern sociology - Human action originates in the collective rather than in the individual - Talked about hard topics like “should we beat kids and sex” - Society needs each other and the institutions we build together - Seemingly small personal choices have large social origins..collective defines what is appropriate - Behavior is driven by the collective conscience “totality of beliefs and sentiments common to average citizens of the same society has its own life”..reflection of a shared experience by individuals..cannot be study..one must study social facts - Collective conscience increases over time, early society was much more individually oriented, harsh, and strict - Social Facts are general social features that exist on their own and are independent of individual manifests for example: laws, beliefs, customs and morals. Creation of human actions but are not the intended consequences of them-they are unintentional outcomes of collective behavior and interaction. - Anomie is a state of normalness that results from the lack of clear goals and creates feelings of confusions that may ultimately result in higher suicide rates. Being lost or disconnected from others. Ex: students who attend school but don’t know what to do as a career - Any social organization that increases a person’s healthy connection to others (marriage, religion) will decrease likelihood of suicide and chance of suffering from anomie - First study of suicide was the first positivistic study…social integration and regulation causes in suicide rates..too high or low will have high suicide rates - He studied how suicide functions in a society - Egotistic suicide: do not feel connected to a group - Altruistic suicide: too connected - Anomic suicide: if society fails to provide adequate direction and regulation of behavior - Fatalistic suicide: overregulation exists and people feel that life is too harsh/strict - Mechanic solidarity describes early societies based on similarities and independence. People were self-sufficient…they would grow their own crops, build their own tools and so on. You lived in a community that you did not rely on others. People came together out of choice-low levels of interpersonal conflicts - The way we feel connected to the community, found we are all very similar in the way we act - Organic solidarity describes later societies organized around interdependence and the increasing division of labor. Dependent of others. - increasing division of labour and the resulting specialization means that we have become completely interdependent - built a rigorous and theoretical foundation for sociology - established functionalism in Europe Talcott Parsons - influential American functionalist - Interested in explaining why people do what they do - Social Action Theory is the framework which attempts to separate behaviors from actions to explain why people do what they do. Viewed people as actors in that they played roles either as individuals or as collectives - Four Functional Imperatives (AGIL) 1. Adaptation- The social system must be able to gather and distribute sufficient resources and adjust to changes in its environment. It must manipulate the environment to achieve system needs
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